New School for Public Engagement

Posted on April 1, 2012

A Century of Cutting Edge Adult Education

The New School for Public Engagement, formed by integrating The New School for General Studies and Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy, is a newly created division that “emphasizes the core values of democratic citizenship, social action, and cultural engagement.” Since 2008, The New School has participated in the Newcombe Foundation’s Scholarships for Mature Students program. The Foundation celebrates this partnership, as well as the diversity, ambition and success of the Newcombe Scholars at The New School.

The New School, which began in 1919 as a center for discussion and instruction for mature men and women, became America’s first university for adults. The founding division, now known as The New School for Public Engagement, developed unique courses in which adult students examined some of the pressing issues of the day. It was here that W.E.B. DuBois taught the first course on race and African American culture at a university, Gerda Lerner taught the first women’s studies course at a university, W.H. Auden taught poetry and Martha Graham led dance classes.

“Since its founding, The New School has been at the forefront of educating adults, inviting men and women to bring their life experiences to the classroom to inform advanced intellectual discourse,” said David Scobey, Executive Dean of The New School for Public Engagement. “With the establishment of our Public Engagement division, we have renewed our commitment to our university’s founding values of offering cutting-edge, socially pertinent learning to mature individuals.”

Situated in Greenwich Village, The New School sits firmly at the heart of New York City’s historic center of creativity. True to its founding mission of bringing the best of intellectual discourse to the city, the university mounts an ambitious schedule of co-curricular public programming, including hosting prestigious award ceremonies and readings such as the National Book Critics Circle Reading and Award and the Pen World Voices Festival that augment and enrich our students’ and neighbors’ intellectual and cultural lives.

New School for Public Engagement
Charlotte W. Newcombe Scholars gather with Tom Wilfrid, Executive Director at the Newcombe Foundation and David Scobey, Executive Dean at The New School’s Annual Scholarship Breakfast.

The New School for Public Engagement’s undergraduate program for non-traditional students approaches liberal arts education with the unique needs of returning students in mind. Starting with the admission process, prospective students are carefully matched with faculty advisors who serve as mentors with whom they discuss past experiences and future goals, and design a personal plan of study. This one-on-one relationship continues throughout students’ careers at the school. The Office of Academic Services provides a variety of services that support and enhance students’ academic experience. Academic Services established and conducts the annual induction ceremony for Theta Nu Sigma, The New School’s chapter of Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honor Society, which specifically recognizes the academic achievements of non-traditional students. The office also acts as liaison with central administration offices like Career Services, Disability Services, Rights & Responsibilities, and with the six other divisions of the university.

New School for Public Engagement undergraduates are typically working adults, at least 25-years-old, who are returning to school to complete a degree. 60 percent of these non-traditional students are women. Individual stories vary, ranging from needing a degree for job advancement to pursuing a long-deferred dream of going to graduate school. Whatever the reason, The New School for Public Engagement provides the individual attention and flexibility non-traditional students in an urban setting need and want. That flexibility includes the creation of The Courtyard, originally an online orientation space for new students unable to attend onsite orientation, but now expanded with 24/7 accessibility to include greetings from the Executive Dean and program heads, announcements, updates, and a Q&A board that promises-and delivers-responses within 48 hours. The School for Undergraduate Studies offers mature students the ability to take courses in other divisions with traditional-aged undergraduates, as well as the ability to take graduate-level courses in our own and other divisions of the university. We accommodate their real lives outside the classroom by allowing them to take onsite, online, or a blend of onsite and online classes. For those who want a fast track to graduate school, we offer accelerated, duel-degree Bachelors/Masters options in areas such as International Affairs, Management & Urban Policy, Media Studies, Psychology, Philosophy, Liberal Studies, Sociology, Historical Studies, and other Social Sciences.

2010-11 Charlotte W. Newcombe Scholars are recognized at The New School’s Annual Scholarship Breakfast.

In these difficult financial times, the Newcombe Scholarship can make all the difference to a struggling mature woman trying to pursue an education. An example is Debbie Reid Whyte (’10), a 2008-2009 Newcombe Scholarship recipient and mother who left the corporate world to pursue something “meaningful.” Debbie was a psychology concentrator who graduated with both a B.A. in Liberal Arts and a certificate in Creative Arts Therapy. Today she is an Art Therapy Intern at the Association for the Help of Retarded Children, the final step in completing her master’s degree in Creative Arts Therapy at Pratt University. Elizabeth Cohen (’11), a stay-at-home single mother and 2009-2010 Newcombe Scholarship recipient, was “dragged” to an open house by a friend. Elizabeth, who says she never thought of herself as a “college person,” wrote a book about her earlier experiences and is excited about completing her first year in the MSW Program at C.W. Post/Long Island University. Valerie Petit (’10), a first generation American and the first college graduate in her family, was a Riggio Honors Scholar and 2008-2009 Newcombe Scholarship recipient. Valerie is now a graduate student and research assistant at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Debbie, Elizabeth and Valerie are typical of the dynamic, engaged adult students who make The New School for Public Engagement such a special place.

For further information about The New School for Public Engagement, please visit